Aug 25, 2022

Pressure Proof with Daniel Stewart: The OH NO Plan

USEA/ Olivia Airhart photo

We’ve spent the summer discussing different ways to overcome the kind of things that can overwhelm you and more specifically the three different plans you can use to control your emotions when they risk taking control of you. The plans we’ve discussed so far all fall under the category of pre-ride routines and they include the "normal plan" (routines you do pre-ride when everything goes according to plan), the "quickie plan" (routines you do pre-ride when you’re late or rushed) and the "hurry-up-and-wait plan" (routines you do pre-ride when encountering a delay). Your brain craves the perception of control and anything that breaks that perception, including rushing or delays, can often lead to feelings of fears, frustrations, doubt, disappointment, pressure, and panic. The role of these plans is to simply give your brain the perception of control that it so badly craves.

This month’s Pressure Proof tip falls under the routine category, but not of the pre-ride variety. I like to call this month’s tip the OH NO plan and it doesn’t happen before an event like the others. It happens during it- as in “Oh no I lost a stirrup/pulled a rail/forgot my course!" As you’ve already guessed, the OH NO plan is a routine you'll use when you encounter an unexpected challenge in the middle of a ride; like between fences three and four, questions eight and nine, or as you enter at A. For this reason, this plan is called a prime-ride-ritual because it occurs in the prime of the ride.

Like all routines, the idea behind the OH NO plan is that you can’t predict problems, but you can prepare for them. Plan your ride & ride your plan is a common phrase often associated with this kind of routine and one that’s especially important in the prime of the ride because unexpected problems can so quickly derail your train of thought.

So what happens when your train of thought jumps the track? What happens when you’re doing everything right but it still goes wrong? You’re having an amazing ride but your handy horse uncharacteristically refuses a fence and you end up on his neck? What happens when you encounter an unexpected challenge such as losing your stirrup, a surprise like your horse losing a shoe, or disappointment like losing your memory mid-course? Well, this is the time for your OH NO plan - a pre-defined routine that begins every time you hear yourself saying, “Oh no” or “Oh my gosh” or whatever other four-letter word you come up with! The good news is that while you might lose your stirrup, shoe, or memory, this kind of plan will keep you from losing your mind.

As you can imagine, the OH NO plan needs to be really quick because you’ve only got a second or two to figure out how to act and react to the challenge. This means that it needs to be committed to memory before you ride so it’s ready to go when you are. Sadly, you probably just won’t have the time to come up with any good options in the heat of the moment.

So what kind of plan can help keep you from losing your mind after you’ve lost your focus? Well, perhaps something as simple as repeating “shake it off" while shanking your shoulders and scratching your horse or taking a deep breath while saying “rest-of-the-ride-best-of-the-ride” at the same time as patting your horse. While these actions and reactions might seem small, you might just be surprised at what a big difference they can make.

So this month create your very own OH NO plan, memorize it, and be prepared to use it because sooner or later you’re going to bump into an unexpected surprise, challenge, or disappointment. The good news is that this is exactly the kind of routine that will help you to hold it together when it would be normal to fall apart!

I hope you enjoyed this month’s tip and the three other pre-ride routines I spoke about earlier this summer. Give them all a try and if you’d ever like to teach equestrian sport psychology classes, clinics or seminars just let me know! I’m hosting my next instructor certification class in Florida this November. Visit Pressure Proof Academy or email me for more info!

Apr 17, 2024 Profile

The VIP Volunteer: Debra Sue Waters

Since the mid-’80s, lifelong horsewoman and professional artist Debra Sue Waters has devoted countless hours to the sport of eventing, and last year topped the rankings of the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program in Area V. Assisting behind the scenes at an event just comes naturally to the Millsap, Texas, resident.

Apr 16, 2024 Education

Tips to Keep Eventing Competition Management Happy

Have you thanked your competition management team lately? Here’s your spring season reminder to do just that! Whether you’ll be debuting in the Starter division or cruising around at Advanced, competition management has a lot of moving parts to manage that will ensure a great experience for you and your horse. Keep your competition management team happy and help support the future of eventing with these quick tips from STRIDER.

Apr 16, 2024 USEA Foundation

MARS Bromont Rising Returns for June 2024

The MARS Bromont Rising U25 scholarship program, administered by the USEA Foundation, is pleased to announce that up to 10 grants of up to $2,500 each will once again be available for talented young riders aged 25 and under, who are aiming to compete in the MARS Bromont (Quebec, Canada) U25CCI divisions in June, 2024. Highlighting this year’s program is the return of three-time German Olympic team member Bettina Hoy, as a guest coach for 2024.

Apr 16, 2024 Young Event Horse

Young Event Horse Graduates Flock in Droves to the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event

The Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event is just over a week away, and a slew of USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program Graduates are slated to make the trip to the Bluegrass State to compete in what is looking like an epic weekend of sport. Between the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L and the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S divisions, a total of 24 former YEH participants are set to go down centerline in the Rolex Arena next week. With the Paris Olympics quickly approaching, and the event serving as one of the final selection trials for team spots, the entry lists for both divisions are full of star-studded combinations setting their sights on big goals in 2024.

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